I am writing this at the desk of one of the staff writers for David Milch’s Luck in one of the many offices in the building complex where Milch’s Red Board Productions lives. The office and building is clean and modern with a large carpark, restaurant and in many ways could be anywhere in the world – a university, government building, or business park. The writers discuss character arcs, story design and the usual matters one might expect in any creative work that involves a collective and dispersed effort. What is there to say in 2011 about this process that creates art? There is no formula for it, but there is a kind of recipe. In this case collective work (of course the norm in mass entertainment) enriches rather than diminishes, but still there must be shadings and gradations of control and authority and at the top of the list most often is Milch. I am exploring ways of thinking about this that do not simply assert a reformed auteurism or a confected construction a la “Milch”. Nonetheless these are notes that will not make it into my book but seem to capture an aspect of Milch’s world that may be just as important as the hard yakka of creative labour. Over lunch which Milch’s horse trainer, Julio Canani regales the table with stories of notable events concerning Milch’s horses, as well as the story of his own coming to LA in the 1950s after skipping school to train horses in his native Peru. Ben Milch, a successful artist is also there and reminds me that the waiter, Brian Farrell has posted a stand up routine about serving his father on youtube; Milch himself recounts the story of when his horse Gilded Time damaged its leg and Milch drove a hundred miles back home only to be called by his wife: ‘At what point were you going to take us back as well?’. Or when he took fifteen minutes stuffing wads of five thousand dollar bills into Julio’s French army parka; ‘When a guy like me hears “bet all the money you have”…’
It must be wrong to say that this kind of conviviality is unrelated to the work produced that day, but like the buidling and its rooms it sounds something like pleasant lunch talk one might find around the world. What is different is that the art this work endeavours to produce is trying all the time to interpret human experiences like this, taking these congealed bits of humanness and tracking thoughts and registers of ideas through them. It is trying to grasp the world in all its uncertainty, doubt, doubleness, and in all the ways we cleave to the human figure or character as a medium for giving significance to those experiences; or it otherwise tries to bear the burden of representing, carrying a world or a life.
Two things seemed to be at issue today: one is the plausibility of things – minds, worlds, their sights, sounds, pasts – which all must become airborne in order to sustain themselves and enable their own generativity. This requires the currents and moments of feeling and emotion depicted to point beyond themselves, leading to the second thing. Fiction is fundamentally about mimesis but its accuracy depends to a great extent on the audience’s involvement with the world depicted. Psychological plausibility and complexity is time and again bound in tension with the audience’s sense of being on the inside of something they do not fully understand. Hence, part of our stake in Milchworlds depends on the promise of further discovery and revelation, not necessarily of plot but of character. When shaped we experience this as dramatic art, but in terms of content it resembled the unfolding of narrative upon narrative that characterised our lunchtime.
(March 9 2011)